Supply chain visibility is not just understanding what a product is, what time it will arrive or leave a warehouse, or when it will be with a customer. It is about having a full, transparent understanding of the whole supply chain and what is required to optimise it. The pandemic has highlighted the need for greater resilience, and end-to-end visibility will have a vital role to play.
Supply chain networks are highly dynamic, continuously evolving and shifting, particularly in these unpredictable times. To truly understand a supply chain network requires direct connectivity and observation of what is occurring in real time. This can be very difficult to achieve, so developing a strategy encompassing real-time raw materials, partially finished goods, and components through the supply chain process is essential.
Different Ways of achieving Supply Chain Visibility
There are many ways to optimise your supply chain visibility. Each approach is different and will vary according to the company size and type but is equally important.
It is imperative to have strong and open relationships with suppliers, across the entire supply chain. Having a deep understanding of multi-tiered supply networks, inventories and sales including the geographical locations of suppliers and the different goods that pass through them; stock levels in warehouses and the purchasing patterns of buyers allows for a more complete understanding across the board.
Technology – tracking capabilities are advancing all the time making it possible to monitor real-time data in a supply chain as shipments move between different points such as manufacturing centres, warehouses, and delivery points. Having the right technology is key to success.
Data – operating a supply chain with a strong foundation on data analysis and open lines of communication can help supply chain bottlenecks and can avoid disruptions entirely.
Internet of Things (IoT) is shaping the supply chain and enhancing visibility. IoT is playing an increasing role in streamlining the entire traceability process, leading to reduced costs and increasing overall efficiency and quality. For example, by integrating IoT traceability into the food supply chain, the way that variables such as temperature and humidity of items are recorded will change. This will be useful where certain foods need to be stored within a certain temperature range and IoT can provide data that ensures compliance throughout every stage of the supply chain.
The Benefits of a High Visibility Supply Chain
There are many benefits to investing in a high-visibility supply chain
- Better customer experience and satisfaction delivering performance and brand benefit.
- Saved time via automating the tracking process across all transportation parties.
- Greater inventory control and procurement.
- More precise data to make smarter financial decisions.
- Improved worker efficiency and productivity.
- Reduced costs associated with delays and chargebacks.
- Shorter cycle times.
Other benefits include a proactive status tracking system, fewer disruptions, better risk mitigation, improved customer retention and better reporting.
How to improve Supply Chain Visibility
Supply chains for many product flows have become increasingly complex, with globalisation bringing in numerous players and multiple transaction stages throughout the process.
However, technology and software systems can now provide end-to-end supply chain visibility – something that felt like the impossible only a couple of decades ago.
To improve the level of your supply chain visibility:
- Review your supply chain in terms of where are the pain points, what are your goals and expectations, are your suppliers or outsourcing partners operating efficiently, what are the main risks?
- Take a deep dive to determine how accurately you can predict errors in your supply chain. Compare your previous predictions to what happened during shipping and other processes to see how accurate your forecasting has been. Was an inaccuracy due to unforeseen events, or was there no evident reason? When you can answer these questions, you can uncover issues and improve supply chain visibility.
- Because different analytics require different levels of visibility, the integration of analytics can play a significant role in the success of your supply chain. Consider descriptive analytics, for example, that require only a small amount of data visibility to determine what happened in a situation in contrast to predictive analytics, which requires more internal and external data visibility. These measures of visibility will be hurdles to overcome if you are integrating analytics into your supply chain.
- Measure results with relevant KPIs and identify ways of improvement. If you can quickly calculate and generate hard data, your supply chain is usually in good shape in terms of visibility. If not, you could be dealing with data silos, shadow IT, or other barriers to a transparent, integrated value chain.
To summarise – approximately 80% of large companies have visibility over just 20% of their supply chain spend. Improving this visibility can significantly improve the efficiency and profitability of a company.
Supply chain visibility should be used to prevent disruptions and to transform the supply chain into a robust system that can not only ‘fix’ problems, but prevent them from occurring again in the future.
Bisham’s knowledge and experience can help you develop competitive supply chain visibility solutions that will withstand hurdles and unforeseen challenges quickly and effectively.